Words by Felix Burke
Like a relentless metronome and a to-do list that never ends; Work, school, errands, and whatever other tasks I have often make me feel like I’m stuck in a hamster wheel. Yes, these are things that have to be done, but as I get busier in life, I also realize that I need to reserve some time to do what I love - the things that keep the kid in me stoked! No surprise here, I love riding bikes. The feeling of covering ground fast, seeing new places, and going on a spontaneous adventure, means that I can get a much-needed escape from the hamster wheel to nowhere and get lost without starting much further than my front doorstep.
A good start to any adventure is with pizza and maps.
Quinn and I, both students at the University of Victoria and full-time bike racers, do our best to fly by the seat of our pants and battle against conventional schedules and normalcies. But as hard as we try, we still have to hand in assignments and play by the rules. When Scott suggested this rather epic ride, with his experience in balancing a full-time job and going on amazing adventures, it didn't take much convincing to get us on board.
Chain lube and tire pressure, the classic last-minute preparation.
With hundreds of kilometres of trail stretching north of the city, the ride Scott suggested was destined to be filled with wrong turns, epic bonks, and (hopefully) second winds. These are the things we live for! So, despite the heavy grey clouds casting gloomy shadows over Victoria, we loaded the bikes, grabbed some snacks and set out for the hills.
Scott: "I was really excited for the potential of this ride. The idea of leaving the city and getting to a point on a map that I've only driven to was exciting, but I had no idea what it would look like along the way."
If you're going to meet anywhere, it may as well have sumptuous coffee.
The plan was to follow Victoria's intricate network of bike paths to the edge of the city and connect with the Sooke Wilderness Trail to head north. From there we’d meet the "Cowichan Valley Trail" to bring us further north to the shores of Shawnigan Lake. Once at our turnaround point, the Kinsol Trestle, we would head to the coast and board a small ferry to bring us across the Saanich Inlet to Brentwood Bay. From there we would cruise the country roads back into town and re-enter our normal day to day with a healthy fill of exciting memories after 140km of southern Vancouver Island's finest riding.
...but we all know what caffeine intake leads to.
With cold temperatures, wind and rain, the weather wasn’t overly inspiring. But while most of the city chose to spend the day huddled in their blankets, we followed Victoria's bike path labyrinth while weaving in out of neighbourhoods and along industrial parks until we got to the edge of the city.
Quinn: "It was raining hard enough that I think it had all of us second guessing what we were heading out to do, but no one was ready to admit it. We rode through downtown and onto the ‘E and N rail-trail’ which is home to some of my favourite graffiti."
A little respite from the rain on our way out of the city.
As we left the city, the world got greener and we began to feel smaller. The roads narrowed, the houses became sparse, and sooner than we expected it was just us, the trail, and the torrential rain.
Into the hills we ride
This first section of the Sooke Wilderness Trail had all of our adventure taste-buds firing. This ribbon of fine gravel took us through a sea of green and a tall trees until we were faced with the trail pointing its way directly uphill, disappearing into the fog far above us.
Follow the trail, deep into a world of giants
The climb over the top of the Malahat summit was steep and unforgiving. In some sections we had to fight for every metre, grinding the chain over the chainrings and pushing hard on the pedals. It was here where our thoughts went blank and our focus narrowed on heavy breathing and our immense discomfort. The sweet escape.
The summit was a relief, and with the climb behind us and a descent to look forward to, the three of us laughed at the ridiculousness of our situation and edged forward. Maybe part of it was that we were three mountain bikers on gravel bikes and felt a little silly, but I think the majority of it was that we were too tired to think properly. All that was in our minds is that it was time to shred down instead of suffering up.
There is only one way to get through the mountains, and that is to grind.
Scott: "I was surprised with how dialled a lot of the Sooke Wilderness Trail and Cowichan Valley trail were. Each section was a bit different, and fun to ride for what it brought to the variety of the ride. Riding the downhills were surprisingly fun in a 1980's mountain bike kind of way - haha!"
Quinn: "The descent into Shawnigan was really rad as we were all seeing how sideways we could get on the gravel switch backs!"
Gravel bike shredding. It's real and it's rad!
What’s the optimal granular size for gravel? The answer is whatever we were riding here.
The descent from the Malahat brought us into the Cowichan Valley, where we welcomed the flatter terrain, using it to our advantage to cover distance quickly. We rode through a tunnel of trees and along the banks of Shawnigan Lake until we reached our furthest point from home, the Kinsol Trestle. Built in 1944, it is one of the tallest railway trestles in the world at 44m high. A worthy objective for the day's mission.
The Kinsol Trestle was the northernmost point of our route.
Leaving the Kinsol Trestle behind, we turned on a forestry road named “Koksilah Road”, a name that made the three of us chuckle in our bonked-state. The plan was fuel up on the in-house roasted coffee and pastries at the Drumroaster Cafe in Cobble Hill, as we were soaked to the bone with dwindling spirits.
Quinn: "For the thirty or so minutes before the Drumroaster stop I was really wishing we were there already. I was getting in serious need of a sandwich and coffee, and to be honest, a break!"
Through a tunnel of trees on the Cowichan Valley trail
We’d been battered by the rain since the beginning and the humidity was now working its way into my camera lens. As we left the café in Cobble Hill, I’d worried I had done some permanent damage to the lens but knew I couldn’t do anything about it until we got back. At this point, I wasn’t even sure that we were making it home in one piece.
The warm drinks and food at Drumroaster Café were well deserved and did their part in bringing us back to life (kind of). As we sat there watching the rain from the inside out, it finally came time to ride and all that lay ahead was pedalling into the downpour.
Quinn: "When it was time to get going again, we walked outside to some serious rain. It was not the moral boost I was looking for."
Scott: " Walking out the door of the coffee shop to hammering rain was not how I wanted to take on the rest of the day. We settled into the wetness and I opened my eyes to the details that make this area so special. The colours, the unique farmhouses and farm animals, all which seemed totally unfazed by the weather"
"It was pretty cool to have the horses let us pet them, and then one nibbled on my facial hair. Weird, but I'll take it.” - Self-proclaimed horse whisperer, Scott Pilecki.
From the café in Cobble Hill, the plan was to ride to Mill Bay and catch a ferry across the inlet, rather than riding back over the Malahat pass. However, after a long day of battling the elements that had left us exhausted, we missed a crucial turn and wound up lost.
Scott: "We checked the map again and realized the mess we were in. Shit! It was about 5:30pm, raining, and if we wanted to go to Mill Bay to complete our route there was a chance we’d miss the last sailing. It was too big of a gamble, so with fading light we made the call to put our heads down and head up the Malahat.”
The Cowichan valley is a full of twisty roads surrounded by unique scenery
The descent back down the Malahat, a notoriously dangerous section of the Trans-Canada highway on Vancouver Island, was made especially sketchy by the rain and the fleeting light. Hyper aware of the roadside debris and unpredictable driving from cars to our left, our eyes were wide behind our glasses but our lips were closed tight. It was intense, and as soon as we’d made it down the pass we collectively agreed that now was the time, if any, to have a drink. Luckily for us, Quinn had been carrying 4 Hey Y'alls, a B.C. hard iced tea drink, in his pack for the entire ride. He was just waiting for the right moment to share them with us, and this was it.
Quinn: "Before the ride I thought it would be fun to shotgun some Hey Y’alls when the moment was right. I threw a few in my pack before we left and, after surviving the Malahat, I knew this was it. A quick shotgun, made possible by the OneUp EDC tool, and it was time to make the push for the final 15km home."
With a little bit of liquid courage flowing through our veins we pedalled the last 15km together, swapping stories from the day, laughing at what had happened. They were the kind of laughs where you don’t even know if it’s funny, but you’re so tired that it’s all you can do. The laughter kept the discomfort in our heavy legs away, and as we rolled by the familiar landmarks and usual scenery, it was obvious that nothing had really changed here, but for us everything was different. In just 12 hours, we’d had more new experiences than a week of what running the hamster wheel can offer. We’d climbed mountains, defied the weather, and overcame stressful situations. Scott even had his facial hair munched on by a horse!
To us, rolling through familiar neighbourhoods was a welcomed return to our normal day to day. The ride we’d accomplished had left its mark and was exactly what we all needed. Today’s the perfect example of why bikes are the ultimate tool for the modern adventure.
Scott herds the Rocky Mountain athletes. He is a connoisseur of most things fine and is a black hole of conversation. Scott was riding a large Rocky Mountain Solo flaunting a Topo Design handlebar bag and conveniently carrying his OneUp Components 100cc pump and tool. The rain and cold were no match for Scott's Revelation jacket and merino wool Desperado Henley jersey.
Quinn is a hardman of bike racing, a lover of Whole Foods and tequila, and a proudly known as “The Dog Whisperer”. Quinn's Solo was equipped with OneUp Components EDC tool and pump, and he chose to run Maxxis Ravagers 650b rather than a more standard 700c wheel. His insulating 7mesh mission jersey, Oro shell, and thick skin kept him warm the entire ride.
A sushi-holic with roots in both BC and Quebec, Felix is a strange animal with XC fitness and DH prowess. Felix's used his dropper post equipped Solo to get as sideways as possible on the gravel corners and kept the grit out of his bum with some 7mesh MK3 bibs and Farside shorts. He stayed warm thanks to his Corsa jacket and Cypress vest.
Elements of Victory
Of all the events we attend every year, nothing makes us quite as proud as BC Bike Race. A seven-day international stage race, it's amazing to see so many people from all over the world enjoying our backyard’s choicest trails. It’s a tour of British Columbia’s rugged coast, and some of the world’s most challenging cross country singletrack—all explored while camping between the Pacific Ocean and the coastal mountain ranges.
This year’s 10th annual BC Bike Race was the perfect occasion to give our updated Element platform some real-world marathon XC testing. Bikes and bodies were pushed to the absolute limit over seven days of racing. The weather was wild, the trails were aggressive, and conditions were perfect to put the Element through its paces.
22 year old Quinn Moberg is a young rider from Squamish, BC that’s been with us for several years. It’s been incredible to see him develop into a true force to be reckoned with on the XC circuit, and he had some lofty goals for this year’s BC Bike Race.
Bike Check — Quinn Moberg
“BCBR is probably the roughest cross-country race around. This year’s race was especially cold and wet for all seven days, and I went through the whole race without a mechanical. I think that really says something about the quality of the gear I was running.”
“The new frame was a very big deal for me. I was immediately more confident technically, but also felt more efficiency from the suspension. On this new frame I choose not to run a shock remote, simply because I don’t think it’s necessary. Along with the new bike I was using the new Shimano XT Di2 for the first time. I found the electric shifting to be intuitive and lightning-fast, which was especially helpful when riding unfamiliar trails.” — Quinn Moberg
- Frame: Element 999 RSL T.O. (size Large, Quinn is 5’11”)
- Setup: Neutral RIDE-9™ position
- Shock: Fox Float DPS Factory (100mm, no remote)
- Fork: Fox 34 Factory (120mm)
- Drivetrain: Shimano XT Di2
- Cranks: Shimano XTR
- Brakes: Shimano XTR Race
- Wheels: Stan’s NoTubes Valor
- Tires: Maxxis Ikon 2.2 EXO TR 3C (23 psi front, 24 psi rear)
- Bars: Race Face Next 35mm (10mm rise, cut to 740mm)
- Stem: Race Face Turbine 35mm (80mm)
- Grips: Race Face Half Nelson
- Saddle: WTB Silverado Carbon
- Seatpost: Race Face Turbine dropper post (100mm)
- Pedals: Shimano XTR Race
- Weight: 23lb
Stage 6: Squamish, Presented by Shimano
The Squamish stage is always a crowd favourite. From raw, steep, and technical singletrack, to smooth, flowy jump trails, there’s a reason that Squamish is on a lot of riders’ bucket lists. There’s something for everyone on this stage, but after five previous stages it’s got the potential to crush even the strongest riders.
- Distance: 53 km / 33 miles
- Climbing: 1,944 m / 6378 ft
- Average Time: 4 hours 57 minutes
- Winning Time: 2 hours 43 minutes
With one stage win under his belt already, Quinn had his eyes firmly on taking top-spot on his home terrain. But, with a strong field in play, and several competitors working together to protect the lead from the young local, a win in Squamish would be no easy task.
Quinn’s racecraft belies his years, and he came into the day committed to the strategy of winning on the descents he was all-too familiar with. He executed his plan by pushing hard to enter the opening section of singletrack three corners ahead of his nearest competitors, and then proceeded to nail all his lines while his opponents’ small mistakes began to stack up a time deficit.
From there, Moberg held onto his lead and put several minutes into the rest of the pack. Arms up across the line, he’d accomplished his goal. These 55 kilometers of racing have been the competitors’ favorite stage over the last few years, and to take the win here was a massive accomplishment.
As BC Bike Race celebrates its ten year anniversary, we’re reflecting on where we have come from. The event, our bikes, and the trails here have all evolved in parallel. The bikes we race today, with advanced suspension platforms, dropper posts, and properly aggressive geometry, are nothing like the past. Neither are the trails that are built by dedicated clubs and meticulous trailbuilders. As for the event, it’s evolved from riding a lot of gravel and piecing together little bits of flow, to riding a ton of handcrafted singletrack masterpieces.
“BC Bike Race is a rough, tough, seven day singletrack adventure. Throughout the week, bikes and bodies take some serious abuse. The best bikes for this event aren’t pure XCO whips or enduro sleds, but something else instead. This year I rode the new Element, and it excelled over multiple days of demanding terrain, and delivered a hell of an experience. I’ve ridden many different bikes over the years, and I can say without hesitation that this is the best bike I’ve ever ridden.” — Andreas Hestler, BC Bike Race
“Racing at home is a bit different than racing anywhere else for me. I feel a strong sense of community here and there are so many people that support me and allow me to do what I do. I put a lot of pressure on myself to win races at home because I treat it as my end of the deal. People in town support me, cheer for me, guide me, and motivate me. This is my way of giving back to all those people.” — Quinn Moberg
Thanks to the whole BCBR crew, the many volunteers, and all the trailbuilders for helping make this event possible! Thanks to Tristan Uhl's moustache for existing, Tippie for keeping the stoke high at all times, and Andreas Hestler for repping BC on a global stage. Thanks to Manuel Weissenbacher, Andreas Hartmann, Greg Day, Sammi Runnels, Udo Bolts, Carsten Bresser, and all the other racers who came to battle it out. And of course, a huge congrats to Quinn Moberg for taking two stage wins and claiming fourth in the GC!
See you all next year!
Video by Mindspark Cinema
Photography by Margus Riga & Norma Ibarra
2015 BC Bike Race
BC Bike Race is an undertaking that has to be experienced to be understood. It's more than just riding the trails or entering a race—it’s a life-changing event, and you need every participant to make it that.
Rocky Mountain athlete and BCBR head honcho Andreas Hestler shakes off the nerves for day one in Cumberland.
Geoff Gulevich brought his freeride game, tires, and handlebar-moustache to BCBR.
This year we brought a full roster of XC racers, ambassadors, freeriders, distrubutors, dealers, and friends. Geoff Gulevich left his full-face behind and slathered on the chamois butter. Adventure-loving Tito Tomasi was hemmed in by pink race tape and spandex but swore he would take adventurous lines every day.
Andreane Lanthier Nadeau came off a surprise Hood River Enduro win to show the Solo Women’s category how to descend on an XC bike. Local boy Quinn Moberg had something to prove as one of the youngest racers in this year’s Men’s Solo category. And Kevin Calhoun and Greg Day, who compete against each other in the local race scene, teamed up to take on the Men’s Team category.
This year’s BCBR was one of the toughest in the race’s 9 year history. Technical trail and ribbons of singletrack combined with temperatures in the 30’s challenged racers on all fronts. Each stage showed the character of the town, and how diverse the trails can be across BC's landscape.
Dave Vunic keeps the streets safe as an RCMP officer by day, and ripped it up to 13th place in Men’s Solo.
Christoph Listmann puts the hammer down on the flats.
Powell River was a highlight for us this year. The spectacular campground was on Willington beach for two nights next to the ocean. The trails there exemplified true singletrack racing, snaking brown pow through the sea of green moss. Each stop left its mark on the racers, whether literally or figuratively—there were lots of IV's being hooked up and bandages wrapped.
Kristen Gross showing BC that the California girl can rally the rocks in Squamish.
Quinn Moberg leading out from Sechelt to Langdale.
Michael Anthes in his element.
Our athletes both local and far-reaching couldn’t have made us more proud. After seven days of racing, the team of Greg Day and Kevin Calhoun took the overall win in the Elite Team category. Young gun Quinn Moberg worked hard all week, taking the stage win in his home town of Squamish and finishing the race 4th overall in Solo Men. Andreane Lanthier Nadeau took 4th in the women’s Solo, with Kris Gross hot on her heels in 5th.
How's your game face? Kevin Calhoun putting on a game face clinic from the start line.
Mr. Tito Tomasi. A wildman that is not afraid of grizzly bears or pushing his Thunderbolt BC Edition hard.
The German Bike Mag - Rocky Mountain team of Christoph Listmann and Michael Anthes took 2nd Place in the Veteran Team category. Udo and his brother Harty Bolts finished 2nd in their Team category. Udo raced in the Tour de France, in case the name sounds familiar. And in the Masters Solo Men's Thorsten Keller took the second step.
Race organizer and Rocky Mountain veteran Andreas Hestler rode to an impressive 9th place. Mike Sarnecki took 12th, Dave Vunic 13th, Tito Tomasi in 17th, and Geoff Gulevich 64th—not bad for a guy who normally does backflips not swtichbacks.
Greg Hayes, a veteran of the North Shore, showing he's not yet in the Veteran's category.
Hilscher Manfred wears a dusty grin after another day on course.
Our race mechanics were sweating in the heat to make sure that racers' bikes were in top form each day.
Every photo of ALN sees her smiling. After all it was her birthday on July 3rd, and 2nd place in Whistler on Day 7 served as a nice present.
Our thanks go out to BC Bike Race for having us on as a sponsor of such a great week of riding and impressions. We couldn’t have done it without the help of Fox Racing Shox, Shimano, Stan’s notubes, Smith Optics, Maxxis, WTB, FSA, Honey Stinger, Kicking Horse Coffee, Race Face, FTI Consulting, and IGUS. The event itself could not be done without the long list of volunteers and organizers, thank you for all your help and patience along the way. Especially with our beer garden and kids pool…